Latest Ion thruster Stories

2009-01-29 14:40:32

Higher-quality coatings through "runaway" self-sputtering In the electronics industry, thin metal films are deposited on silicon wafers with a sputter gun, which uses energetic ions "“ atoms with a positive charge "“ to knock the metal atoms off a target. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have now developed a powerful new kind of sputter process that can deposit high-quality metal films in complex, three-dimensional nanoscale...

2008-11-21 12:20:00

NASA's Dawn spacecraft shut down its ion propulsion system today as scheduled. The spacecraft is now gliding toward a Mars flyby in February of next year.  "Dawn has completed the thrusting it needs to use Mars for a gravity assist to help get us to Vesta," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Dawn will now coast in its orbit around the sun for the next half a year before we again fire up the ion propulsion system to continue...

2008-04-18 12:45:00

Researchers at Hampshire defense and security firm Qinetiq are currently testing ion thrusters, which they hope will one day bring spacecraft to the planets through solar energy.The ion engines create thrust by the acceleration if ions by electromagnetic forces. They make use of the fact that a current flowing across a magnetic field creates an electric field directed sideways to the current.This is used to accelerate a beam of ions of xenon away from the spacecraft, thereby providing...

2007-10-10 09:11:58

NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully completed the first test of its ion propulsion system over the weekend. The system is vital to the success of Dawn's 8-year, 1.6 billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) journey to asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. "Dawn is our baby and over the weekend it took some of its first steps," said Dawn project manager Keyur Patel of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We have two months more checkout and characterization remaining before Dawn is...

2007-09-27 08:30:00

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's Dawn spacecraft rocketed away Thursday toward an unprecedented double encounter in the asteroid belt. Scientists hope the mission sheds light on the early solar system by exploring the two largest bodies in the belt between Mars and Jupiter: an asteroid named Vesta and a dwarf planet the size of Texas named Ceres. Dawn's mission is the world's first attempt to journey to a celestial body and orbit it, then travel to another and circle it as well. Ion-propulsion...

2007-09-25 13:50:00

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Launch and flight teams are in final preparations for the planned Sept. 27 liftoff from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., of NASA's Dawn mission. The Dawn spacecraft will venture into the heart of the asteroid belt, where it will document in exceptional detail the mammoth rocky asteroid Vesta, and then, the even bigger icy dwarf planet Ceres. "If you live in the Bahamas this is one time you can tell your neighbor, with a straight face, that Dawn...

2007-09-14 06:45:00

Some spacecraft achieve greatness, And some have greatness thrust from them. If you drive a car - and you know who you are - you have invariably come upon the dreaded dilemma of refueling. When the needle on your gas gauge wavers over the unseemly 'E,' you have to ask yourself one question - Do I stop at the next gas station or press on, hoping for a fuel oasis somewhere down the road? But what if you need to motor somewhere three billion-plus miles off the beaten path - somewhere where...

2006-09-02 18:23:51

BERLIN -- Europe's first mission to the moon got a scare, but ground controllers made a last-minute course correction early Saturday that kept the craft from hitting the surface earlier than planned. Mission officials said they raised the low point of the SMART-1 spacecraft about 2,000 feet by using its positioning thrusters to avoid the almost mile-high rim of a moon crater. The maneuver began late Friday night from the European Space Agency's mission control in Darmstadt and was completed...

2006-06-26 14:35:00

After sixteen months orbiting the Moon, ESA's lunar mission is preparing for the end of its scientific exploration. On 19 June, SMART-1 mission controllers initiated a 17-day series of manoeuvres aimed at positioning the spacecraft to enhance science data return as the mission winds down. SMART-1, Europe's successful first Moon mission, is scheduled to end on 3 September 2006, impacting on the Moon's surface in a disposal plan similar to that of many earlier lunar missions and almost three...

2006-03-07 13:34:22

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's space agency said Tuesday it had re-established partial contact with a problem-plagued probe sent to collect samples from an asteroid, but a fuel leak could cut communications again. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said it had established sufficient contact with the Hayabusa probe to assess its condition and position. JAXA has been gradually restoring communications with Hayabusa since January, after a thruster malfunction the previous month put the probe into a...

Word of the Day
  • A terrible or repulsive person.
Regarding the etymology of 'humgruffin,' the OED says (rather unhelpfully) that it's a 'made-up word.' We might guess that 'hum' comes from 'humbug' or possibly 'hum' meaning 'a disagreeable smell,' while 'gruffin' could be a combination of 'gruff' and 'griffin.'